News 12 May, 2011

Piracy - Revised Guidance on the use of AIS in the High Risk Area off Somalia

EUNAVFOR and NATO have recently issued revised guidance concerning the use of AIS in the piracy High Risk Area of the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean (an area bounded by Suez to the north, 10°S and 78°E).

IMO Resolution A.917(22) “Guidelines for the onboard operational use of shipborne automatic identification systems (AIS)”, as amended by Resolution A.956(23) provide that “If the master believes that the continual operation of AIS might compromise the safety or security of his/her ship or where security incidents are imminent, the AIS may be switched off.”

Therefore, in accordance with the foregoing IMO Resolutions, Best Management Practices (Version 3) advises that: “The Master has the discretion to switch off the AIS if he believes that its use increases the ship’s vulnerability. To provide Naval forces with tracking information within the Gulf of Aden it is recommended that AIS transmission is left on, but is restricted to ship’s identity, position, course, speed, navigational status and safety-related information. Outside the Gulf of Aden, in other parts of the High Risk Area, the decision on AIS policy is again left to the Master’s discretion, but current Naval advice is to turn it off completely. If in doubt this can be verified with MSCHOA. If the AIS is switched off it should be activated at the time of an attack.”

EUNAVFOR and NATO have since amended this advice. They now recommend that AIS should be left on throughout the piracy High Risk Area as a safety precaution as this will allow the counter piracy naval forces in the area to track the positions of vessels in real time. AIS transmissions should be restricted to ship’s identity, position, course, speed, navigational status and safety-related information only.

However, the use of AIS remains entirely at the Master’s discretion. If it is switched off for the transit of the High Risk Area due to security concerns, an entry should be made in the deck log stating when the unit was de-activated and the reasons for doing so. In the event of a piracy attack it should be switched on immediately.  

Members requiring further guidance should contact the Loss Prevention department.  

Source: NATO Shipping Centre